Woodland’s growth dynamics are suddenly and prematurely at a genuine crossroads, resulting from two political influences: the issue of flood control and the desire of Conaway Preservation Group (CPG, which controls the ~17,000 acre Conaway Ranch, lying between City of Woodland and the Sacramento River) to acquire from the City and develop a 900 acre parcel at the very easterly edge of town, southeast of Costco, near the sewage treatment plant.

A key and intricate political drama has begun playing out alongside consideration and eventual adoption of Woodland’s new (2015-2035) General Plan, a political drama which will decide where City growth will largely take place after (substantial, say 85%) completion of the recession-plagued Spring Lake Specific Plan (SLSP), ~1,100 acres, ~4,000 housing units, ~11,000 residents.

SLSP is currently only about a quarter built-out and Woodland would technically be able to meet its basic housing needs for the entire term of the new General Plan, simply on the basis of already approved zoning.  However, jockeying to best control the — post-SLSP horizon — has recently given rise to a truly lynchpin exercise over the basic direction of the City’s future development.

Transparent, Yet Non-Transparent

With an astonishing coincidence / convergence of both — transparency and non-transparency — CPG has recently launched — by proxy of a small group of locally well-connected, seemingly earnest folk (among whom, interestingly, some dissension exists concerning elements of this campaign), skippered by former mayor Skip Davies — a sophomoric, attractively glossy yet starkly misleading, public petition campaign intended to crucially influence impending update of Woodland’s General Plan.

Transparent, is that this petition campaign obviously represents the pure interests of CPG.  Non-transparent, is that CPG’s name or reference is found nowhere on it and CPG fails to respond to press inquiry regarding this quite public (and controversial) subject.

Significant resources were expended from somewhere, to produce several pieces of relatively sophisticated campaign material, which does not disclose its organizational status.  Have no doubt, CPG is clearly (transparently) somewhere behind / underneath this (non-transparent) political campaign: “Woodland Balanced Growth Boundaries.”

As we’ll see, even this campaign name itself is nonsensical.  There is no actual “balance” involved here and relevant “boundaries” are deceptively confused.

Altogether, considering this campaign’s catchy name and scrutinizing its stated goals, there is a distinct impression of the public being buffaloed toward supporting CPG’s design of community development.

City Hall has already received nearly 500 very colorful, beautifully designed postcards with bucolic settings, supplied by this petition campaign, expressing support for its quite curious list of goals.

CPG Campaign Goals

This petition campaign initially presents a series of eight goals, the first five of which are quite popular, totally uncontroversial: (a) preserve prime farmland, (b) revitalize / infill downtown, (c) accomplish flood-control. (d) promote railroad relocation, (e) complete SLSP prior to approving large new development.

But then, underneath these top goals, the campaign swiftly drifts into very strange territory: (f) encourage a ‘bring-your-own-water’ type of general plan incentive / provision for future city development proposals (contrasted by the fact that the city says all future development will be fully served by addition of its new surface water project — a cooperative venture with CPG); (g) purportedly, “Save jobs at Pacific Coast Producers [PCP] by relocating their organic wastewater” spray-field; (h) rezone PCP’s present 900 acre, city-owned spray-field for cannery production residue, to allegedly establish “a community asset and include job-creating land purposes.”

Glaringly evident intentions / interests of CPG, posed by the three goals at the bottom of the list, are here being cynically elevated through association with a series of straightforward, praiseworthy and undeniable community values expressed within the campaign’s initial five goals.  Subterfuge is here at work, as these campaign matters descend toward an exploitation of civic circumstances.

General Plan Updating Process

The general plan updating process is expected to release, perhaps by early May, various community land-use scenarios, representing analyses and evaluation of a broad scope of municipal consequences deriving from future growth options.  Eventually, Woodland City Council will adopt a — “preferred” — land-use scenario, approving a rather specific blueprint of future community development.  The City last fully updated its general plan in 1996.

CPG clearly wants to play a pivotal role within local political dynamics, leading to adoption of a new general plan, by using intertwined leverage:  (a) its cooperation / support toward both flood control and railroad relocation, (b) alongside its longstanding interest in swapping a piece of its vast land for the relevant 900 acre, city owned and annexed parcel at the city’s eastern extremity, presently being used as a spray-field for organic residue from the local tomato cannery, operated by PCP.

Cannery Spray-Field, Owned by City, At Very Core of Affairs

PCP, according to a reliable and knowledgeable source, is unwillingly, unhappily, yet quite abruptly caught-up in CPG’s political connivances regarding this campaign intended for influencing the general plan process.  PCP is prominently referred to, in large and slick campaign material resembling an hypnotic board-game, as somewhat urgently needing to move its spray-field to another location — potentially supplied by CPG (although CPG nowhere appears in this campaign material).

A prominent campaign claim is made that such a spray-field move will: “protect jobs,” as if without such a spray-field transfer, PCP will somehow cramp its labor force.

Reliable and knowledgeable sources indicate this central claim of the CPG campaign is pure baloney, explaining that: (a) PCP is investing millions of dollars in this cannery, acquired from Delmonte corporation in 2000; (b) PCP is in no form of labor bind due to current operations related to its spray-field; (c) PCP is strongly committed to remaining in Woodland, despite any future issues related to its (city owned and leased from) spray-field.

According to the view of one reliable and knowledgeable source, PCP is being falsely represented / used in this campaign by CPG, as a cynical device of hoped-for leverage toward achieving its goal of acquiring and developing this 900 acre parcel.

Both PCP and CPG were fairly requested to provide officially pertinent information, make relevant statements, etc.; both have failed (after a week) to respond to such requests.

Deceptive Campaign Angle About Preserving Prime Farmland

“Respecting growth boundaries means only building inside the voter-approved Urban Limit Line,” declares petition campaign materials, also misleadingly advocating in this context, for “preservation of prime farmland.”

However, this campaign crudely and confusingly ignores the stark fact that “prime farmland” is already located — inside — the Urban Limit Line.  This land is generally described as the Spring Lake Master Plan Remainder Area.

Woodland’s Urban Limit Line was constituted to protect farmland adjacent to the City — outside the Urban Limit Line — not to forestall development of the very limited amount of farmland which is fairly unavoidably contained within the Urban Limit Line.

CPG’s petition campaign fails to distinguish this salient difference, deceptively disorienting the public by obscuring the important fact that: “honoring our voter-approved Urban Limit Line” is wholly consistent with developing the small slice of prime farmland left remaining within it.

In fact, prioritizing future development toward the southern extent of the Urban Limit Line, rather than the eastern edge as CPG desires, may indeed be in the city’s best interest.

The CR25A interchange exists not to support farmland preservation, but to make feasible future community development toward what was eventually chosen by local voters (2006) as the Urban Limit Line.  Davis is only a very few minutes away.  Properly designed commercial / residential zoning at / nearby the CR25A interchange would help elicit and invigorate participation of Davis-connected persons within our local economy, best enhancing positive synergy between these two cities.  Land (soil) quality is high in this general area and these southern parcels are out of the flood-plain.  SLSP’s overall planning goals obviously anticipate further southerly development and its infrastructure was designed to accommodate such annexed growth; developing here means using an already invested value which the city greatly needs to optimize.

Also, if you were presently / potentially a Davisite, considering Woodland as a prospective (re)location option, would you want to live within these convenient southerly areas, or within the 900 acre parcel CPG covets, to the east, much further away, on much worse (alkaline) soils, nearby the sewage treatment plant and I-5 traffic?

CPG’s challenge to overcome (through campaign influence on city council members) is that city annexation and development of the Spring Lake Master Plan Remainder Area could effectively dislodge for decades its own fervent hope to acquire and develop the 900 acre parcel of city-owned land now leased by PCP.

Thus, CPG wants to publicly foster beliefs that — as well as by saving (non-)threatened cannery jobs, by deceptively alleging that threatened prime farmland will ultimately be saved by the new general plan directing city growth into the eastern-edge property it intends to acquire and develop — its own plans can be viewed as consistent with civic interest.

CPG Campaign’s Position On Urban Limit Line Is Essentially Flawed

The basic problem CPG cannot overcome is that the Urban Limit Line properly and logically includes this limited amount of prime farmland, outside of the flood-plain, which may surely be preferred for development because of a wide variety of strong justifications (above), as should be reliably reflected within the process of updating the general plan.

Is the position of this campaign that the Urban Limit Line should be moved (must be by ballot action) to exclude such farmland from municipal development, or rather — only — that development of this farmland should occur — after — development of the 900 acre parcel CPG craves?

If the latter, such simple delay appears inconsistent / hypocritical with its grave sentiment against developing farmland.  If the former, such ballot action must become realistic; until then, official city policy holds this farmland open for potential / eventual development and the city predicates its overall activities upon this basis.  Either way, CPG is here pursuing quite suspect, even fraudulent, campaign advocacy.

This CPG campaign is attempting to subtly contravene / undercut sound, ballot-box-established city policy, as the core dynamic of its approach to this city’s new general plan process.  Could anything be more imprudently, unreasonably awkward?  Let’s just hope it’s unsuccessful.

Why does CPG believe it can buffalo Woodland in this fashion?

Flood Control As Another CPG Device / Gambit

Another layer of great and genuine curiosity, if not political / civic negligence, exists in irresponsible city council direction, that — only — land-use scenarios premised upon achievement of a flood-control solution will be considered within this General Plan update.

Such a patently unbalanced and foolish premise plays directly into CPG’s conniving hands, as well as disserving municipal interest.

There is no form of guarantee that the city will have any kind of successful flood-control remedy within the time-frame of this new General Plan.

All its eggs in one basket, alternative options ignored, city planning therefore will plainly be flummoxed / undermined, if final and effective flood control is delayed for any significant period of time.  This is not smart policymaking; in fact, it’s pretty stupid.

Why is the city council directing such an unbalanced, possibly untenable approach to this important general plan process?

There is no good reason for the city to rest all of its community planning upon such an unbalanced platform of relative uncertainty.  Clearly, this sort of mistake has happened before, with SLSP.

Talk around town, though, is that a flood-control solution may be only a few years away.  After all, Woodland has applied to the state Department of Water Resources for $150 million to help resolve the Cache Creek flooding potential and the federal Army Corps of Engineers is involved (at its usually plodding rate).

Yet, the huge and unsolved problem is that the city will need to come up with — at least $40 million, on its own — in order to move forward this flood-control solution.

The city doesn’t presently have this money; so, the apparent gambit being waged by CPG, is to offer to purchase the city-owned, PCP spray-field, while providing a sufficient PCP spray-field space amidst its vast acreage.  Revenue from such a sale would then be used to finance the city’s instantly needed (acting in the short term), ~$40 million portion of some anticipated flood-control solution.

CPG’s gambit seemingly assumes the city can be enticed, in the face of soon achieving a flood-control solution — to short-sell its 900 acres — which flood-control would then make exponentially more valuable, while the city rezones this land toward development by CPG.

What a clever squeeze / swindle — unless the city council manages to protect civic interest in a creatively cogent manner.

Also, is there really any price for which profound deviation from this community’s best interests is ever warranted?